Adolescents and youth with disability are a special interest group that should receive special attention through COVID-19 governmental and nongovernmental recovery interventions.
This was raised over the weekend during a radio talk on Favour FM which discussed the consequences of COVID-19 on the reproductive health of the youth and adolescents in northern Uganda. Such adolescents and youth include the dumb, the deaf, and the blind.
The talk show on the Gulu-based radio station was hosted by Simon Ojok and the panel comprised a team of researchers from Gulu University (GU), Reproductive Health Uganda (RHU) and Gulu Regional Referral Hospital.
The researchers, who included Prof. Charles Nelson Okumu and Dr. Agatha Alidri of GU, Emily Kayeny of Gulu Hospital, and Filda Anicia of RHU, are part of a collaborative team from Uganda and Denmark which is researching youth reproductive health during, before, and after Uganda’s COVID-19 pandemic period.
L-R: Emily Kayeny, Dr. Agatha Alidri, Filda Anicia and Prof. Okumu
CONCOV—Consequences of the COVID Epidemic for Youth Reproductive Health in Northern Uganda—the project under which the research is being done, is hosted by Building Stronger Universities (BSU) at GU and funded by DANIDA.
A listener called in and said adolescents with disability were a vulnerable group that was found already disadvantaged before suffering the effects of the pandemic, and therefore needed special attention.
Among the issues raised due to the pandemic were increased teenage pregnancies, STI, and HIV infections among adolescents and youth, increased cases of unsafe abortion, increased cases of rape of young girls, increased cases of Gender Based Violence (GBV), and more boys dropping out of school.
Economic hardship was reported to have led to inter-generational sex–young girls relating with older men and young boys relating with older women–leading to new HIV infections.
Citing her place of work as an example, Kayeny said health workers lacked the capacity to ably serve such special interest groups.
"We need to attend to them with some people who have attained qualifications in how to serve them best," said Kayeny. "There is also a need for capacity building for people in hospitals in handling such special interest groups."
Callers appreciated the CONSCOV intervention through research and community engagement and outreach.
Dr. Agatha Alidri, the BSU Coordinator and Co-PI of CONSCOV said after the talk show: “People’s response is clear – that reproductive health is a big issue. Some people want us to reach them even though they are outside the geographical scope of our study. We shall try to reach them.”